By Jason Wisniewski
The Minnesota Vikings will enter the 2019 NFL Off season with a “To Do” list that will include filling roster holes at the following positions:
1.) LG (starter)
2.) RG (starter)
3.) SOLB (starter)
4.) WR 3 (quasi-starter)
5.) UT (starter)
6.) UT (depth)
7.) Kicker (starter)
8.) Punter (starter)
9.) FB (starter)
10.) Safety (starter)
One could also argue that Tackle depth behind Riley Reiff & Brian O’Neill is needed as well as interior O-line depth, RB 2 & a TE who can stretch the field. The Vikings will certainly make some cuts and contract restructures to give themselves some more cap space to improve upon the roughly $10.9 million they have now (if you don’t count the future/ reserve contract guys who won’t wind up counting towards the cap after the draft) but still that is potentially 14 positions and maybe even 15 if someone like Kyle Rudolph becomes a surprise cut. Even if they bump their 2019 cap number up to say $40ish million with cuts & restructures the Vikings will still only be able to do so much between re-signing some players and adding some outside FA’s.
They will need to the draft to acquire young & cheap talented players who can start day one. For a team that still has Super Bowl aspirations with it’s talented core of players on defense and its star studded skill position group on offense they will need to get immediate contributions from their draft class and the best way to do that is to acquire as many picks in the top 3 rounds as you can as the success rate of hitting on players in those rounds is significantly higher than trying to find day 3 hidden gems.
Spielman has either traded away or traded down in Rd 3 for the past 3 seasons and it has hurt his drafts. None of the four 7th rd picks from 2017 were on the 53 man roster last season and neither were the 5th or 6th rd picks from that year. Of last years draft the 4th rd pick barely saw the field, one of the 5th rd picks was cut and the other one was a 3rd string TE. Of the bottom 3 picks in Rds 6-7 last year only 7th rd pick Devante Downs made the 53 man roster and he was a healthy scratch most of the year. You could say the only diamond in the rough in Rds 5-7 the past 3 drafts has been backup TE & blocking specialist David Morgan. Clearly the diamond in the rough strategy isn’t working.
So what can he do differently this season to ensure he has as much talent between days 1 & 2 of the draft?
Sure he could trade away defensive players like Trae Waynes or Everson Griffen to try and get another 2nd rd pick but is robbing Peter to pay Paul really the answer to building a complete team ready to compete for a Super Bowl championship?
Probably not because you’re just creating a new problem to try and solve your existing problem. There is a better way where you don’t have to weaken your defense to improve the rest of your team. This year he comes into the drafted armed with picks in the 1st four rounds of the draft.
I would suggest trading with the LA Chargers if they are willing to move up in Rd 1. A fair trade for both teams according to the NFL Trade Value Chart would be sending them our Rd 1 #18 & Rd 4 #18 picks and in return receiving their Rd 1 #28 & Rd 2 #28 picks. That would make the Vikings draft order look like this in the top 3 rounds of the draft:
Rd 1 #28
Rd 2 #18
Rd 2 #28
Rd 3 #17
So why am I pushing so hard for two 2nd rd picks?
If Rick Spielman were to simply stand pat with each selection he would have a total of 3 picks in the first 3 rounds and a total of 2 picks in the top 2 rds. It’s hard to know what to expect out a Vikings 3rd pick these days because Spielman has rarely selected them and the one 3rd rd pick he did actually select was Center Pat Elflein in 2017 who was the worst graded Center in football in 2018 according to PFF. Now that could possibly be due to Elflein not being fully recovered from his 2017 injuries and we certainly hope that is the case but it doesn’t help the case that a 3rd rd pick will be a sure-fire starter.
Looking at his 2nd rd picks the past 3 years the results are much more promising. In 2016 he took Mackensie Alexander who has developed into a fine Nickel CB. In 2017 he took Dalvin Cook who is the team’s promising & explosive RB. In 2018 he took OT Brian O’Neill who exceeded expectations and became the team’s starting RT midway through the season. Clearly giving Rick Spielman more picks in the 2nd rd seems like it would be a good thing given his recent track record in that round, not to mention the general overall higher success rate for all teams drafting in that round vs lower rounds.
Another thing besides a better hit rate in the 2nd rd having more 2nd rd picks will do is help to fill starting spots. We’ve identified that the Vikings will need a number of starting spots to be filled on their roster as well as depth pieces. For the purposes of this exercise let’s say that the Vikings re-signed a handful of players to achieve this. For example:
Re-Signed: ( Ham FB, Harris S, Easton C/G, Robinson WR, T. Johnson DT, Sherels CB/PR)
Let’s start with those 6 cheap depth players likely to be back. That would still leave at least 9 positions that need to be filled and holes would remain at UT, LB, G, G, OT, K, P, RB2 & WR3. Let’s say you get 4 of those filed in FA. UT, WR3, K & P get filled by UFAs. That still leaves 5 spots ( LB, G, G, OT, RB 2). 3 of those would need to be starters (LB, G, G) If you have a 1st rd pick and two 2nd rd picks that all of a sudden becomes workable and you can use the rest of the draft to fill the other 2 depth pieces.
To me that sounds like a winner! What do you think? Be sure to check out the podcast below where I discuss this more in depth and go through some potential scenarios.